The Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung (BGE) has taken another step towards the retrieval of radioactive waste from the Asse II mine. On 20 December 2021, it contracted out the draft and licensing planning for the waste treatment plant and interim storage facility. The contract went to a bidding consortium consisting of the companies Uniper Anlagenservice GmbH, Uniper Technologies GmbH and Brenk Systemplanung GmbH. The documents are to be presented by the end of 2023.
Aiming to produce plans for technical facilities that are eligible for a licence
The awarded contract envisages the preparation of the basic evaluation, as well as the preliminary, draft and licensing planning for the waste treatment plant and interim storage facility. This also includes the inside rooms, outdoor spaces, civil engineering works and traffic infrastructure, along with the structural design and technical equipment for buffering, characterisation, conditioning and interim storage of the radioactive waste that is to be retrieved from the Asse II mine. The aim is to produce draft and licensing plans that are eligible for a licence. Stefan Studt, Chair of the Management Board of the BGE, says: “The BGE is consistently pushing ahead with planning without creating irrevocable facts. That’s what we agreed to do at the end of last year as part of the so-called consideration process.”
The contract includes expert technical and financial planning for a building that is ready for operation and economical in construction and operational processes, including demolition, along with the necessary facilities, taking account of all statutory and operational requirements. Dr Thomas Lautsch, Technical Managing Director of the BGE, says in relation to the awarding of the contract: “This work shows that we’re serious about the legally required retrieval process.”
No irrevocable facts
In accordance with the BGE’s retrieval plan of 2020, the awarded contract envisages the construction of a waste treatment plant and interim storage facility in the immediate vicinity of the existing site. As part of this, the facilities above ground are to be designed to allow the handling of around 100,000 cubic metres of retrieved low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste – including contaminated deposits. It is estimated that conditioning the radioactive waste in a manner that is failure-proof and suitable for transport will lead to a total volume of around 200,000 cubic metres in need of interim storage. The interim storage facility is to be designed for these volumes.
The BGE plans to house the necessary plant areas for buffering, characterisation, conditioning and interim storage in a building complex with a view to optimising the use of three- and two-dimensional space. This requires licences under nuclear law, the Radiation Protection Act and the Radiation Protection Ordinance, among others. The facility will be designed for the handling of nuclear fuels in accordance with section 9 of the Atomic Energy Act, taking account of the specific location within a landscape conservation area. The area directly adjoins a protected biotope and a special area of conservation (SAC) in accordance with the European Habitats Directive. Only waste from the Asse II mine is handled and held on-site in interim storage.
Most of the planning services are of a general nature and must be provided independently of the planned siting location. The BGE is therefore not creating any irrevocable facts with regard to the results of the consideration process.
No moratorium on retrieval planning
There have been intensive discussions in the region regarding the proposed siting of a waste treatment plant and interim storage facility near the Asse mine. In February 2021, the Asse-2 Monitoring Group, the Federal Environment Ministry and the Lower Saxony Ministry for the Environment agreed to review the siting decision. The Federal Environment Ministry commissioned four experts to carry out this review. On 18 October 2021, the experts published their report Beleuchtung des Standortauswahlverfahrens für ein Zwischenlager im Rahmen der Rückholung der radioaktiven Abfälle aus der Schachtanlage Asse II (external link, german only) (“Consideration of the site selection procedure for an interim storage facility as part of the retrieval of radioactive waste from the Asse II mine”).
The report is currently undergoing intensive examination by all parties. At present, the BGE is once again reviewing the arguments behind the siting of the waste treatment plant and interim storage facility – as called for by the consideration group. At the same time, it was agreed in February 2021 that there would be no interruption to current planning in order to avoid risking a delay to the planned start of retrieval in 2033. The current services were contracted out in accordance with this agreement.
About the BGE
The BGE is a federally owned company within the portfolio of the Federal Environment Ministry. On 25 April 2017, the BGE assumed responsibility from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection as the operator of the Asse II mine and the Konrad and Morsleben repositories. Its other tasks include searching for a repository site for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste produced in Germany on the basis of the Repository Site Selection Act, which entered into force in May 2017. The managing directors are Stefan Studt (Chair), Steffen Kanitz (Deputy Chair) and Dr Thomas Lautsch (Technical Managing Director).